Thieves, Cameras and Sneakers

In an ideal world, a security camera can identify a suspect or a victim.

Sadly we do not live in an ideal world, and not all security cameras are created equal. The ability to identify someone depends on the camera’s capabilities including FPS and resolution among other things.

When it comes to cameras, you get what you pay for.

The better the camera, the better the identification capability. With a high-end 5K resolution camera from a reputable manufacturer, you can get great facial definition of someone running by even at low light, and make out the majority of license plates during the day.

But if you have a cheaper camera, you aren’t out of luck.

Even when someone is running in low light, there is a chance to get quality data. The key is knowing where to look!

When we lived in Baltimore, we banded together with a handful of neighbors to make an effective network of security cameras covering several blocks. Some had those really high-end cameras while others had more simple, cost effective IP models.

That being said, the capabilities of all the different cameras meant that pulling viable footage from any one location at any time was not guaranteed. Where one camera could clearly display a license plate of a car going 35mph, others could only show a blur of a vehicle.

As the old adage says, two heads are better than one – and a neighborhood watch surveillance network was born.

Over time we learned what each person’s camera limitations were and played to their strengths. Eventually, we solidified our understanding of what each camera could see, and what time of day or night they would be most useful.

When an incident occurred, we would let all camera owners know what time window to look at, and begin the process of viewing, analyzing and compiling footage to be sent to local law enforcement.

No matter how low or high quality the cameras were, the one piece of information that all cameras were able to show were shoes.

As a human runs, your front foot lands, connects to the ground, and you push back off. This process takes about .33 seconds on average. This third of a second window is long enough for a camera to capture a still shot allowing you to give credible data to the police.

After a crime is committed, most criminals understand instinctually that changing their appearance is beneficial.

Someone running from a crime will often change their appearance by putting on a sweatshirt or taking off a hat. This is known in the world of covert operations as “light disguise” or “Level 1 Disguise”. The purpose is to break your physical profile so that someone who knows you would not immediately recognize you from 30 feet away.

Changing a shirt, a sweatshirt, even pulling off a pair of sweats and leaving shorts on takes very little effort to a skilled individual. These changes all require very basic, gross motor movements.

However, a person is not likely to change their shoes with the same ease.

Changing your shoes takes planning and fine motor skills.

One of the first things to go when the human body experiences an adrenaline rush is fine motor skills – and our neighborhood watch surveillance group capitalized on this fact.

By paying attention to the shoes of people present in camera footage before and after criminal activity, we were able to determine where a suspect came from and went to after committing a crime. Many times, this led to getting better footage of the person walking at a slower pace either before or after the incident – resulting in identifiable facial images that were provided to law enforcement.

BLUF: You don’t need the best camera on the market to provide quality data to law enforcement about criminal activities.

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